A film review by David N. Butterworth
Copyright 2004 David N. Butterworth
*1/2 (out of ****)
The waiting room sofa at Knapely General is so bloody uncomfortable that,
following the passing of her husband to leukemia, Annie (Julie Walters) wants
to buy a new one and dedicate it to John's loving memory. Fellow members of
Knapely's Women's Institute, a bored group of housewives who sit about listening
to guest speakers lecture about the finer points of broccoli, are in, but how
can they fund this venture, when a nice leather number costs a whoppin' £999!
That's when Annie's best friend Chris, played by a spunky Helen Mirren, has
a brainchild: why not do a nudie calendar, with post-menopausal W.I. members
displaying their comely wares amidst the buns and the jams and the cauli'? (seems
she's influenced by a copy of "Bazookas" she finds under her son's bed). Although
the calendar proves a whopping success, the undertaking puts a strain on the
friend's relationship when Chris becomes more focused on fame than family in
a denouement that warns of the perils of celebrity. "Calendar Girls" is another
one of those cheeky British imports in the "'Full Monty"/"Waking Ned Devine"/"Widow's
Peak"/"Saving Grace" mold that's all quaint British eccentricity and very little
else (like those films, the over-fifties Ritz crowd is going to eat this one
up). There's no Joan Plowright to be seen, oddly enough, and this one's based
on a true event, but there's virtually no story here and "Calendar Girls," even
when it's firing on both cylinders, never rises above inconsequential. At 108
minutes Nigel Cole's film is virtually all padding, and you have to question
scenes in which some male fans claim to be impressed by what the women are doing
when, in fact, what they're doing is raising money for a settee. Somewhere,
somehow, that fact got airbrushed out of the picture. "They dropped everything
for a good cause" would seem to refer more to the filmmakers than the gutsy,
middle-aged women shedding their clothes for a hospital couch.
David N. Butterworth
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